Living with her husband and family in Swindon, 37-year-old Mrs. Margaret Legg shocked a neighbour one day in October 1924 when she pointed out a stranger, saying she used to live with him as his wife and he had asked her to elope with him.
He was William Grover Bignell, a 32-year-old unemployed labourer and ex-soldier, and on the evening of OCTOBER 25th Mrs. Legg was seen drinking with him at a pub in Tetbury. Leaving the inn at 9 p.m., they walked towards the railway station, and at 10.30 Bignell went up to a police sergeant and asked where he could find a bed for the night. The sergeant suggested a few places, but Bignell approached him again shortly afterwards, having apparently had no luck.
When he said he lived nearby the puzzled officer advised him to go home. No, said Bignell, he’d rather be locked up. What for? asked the sergeant. Bignell replied that he’d murdered a woman.
Taking the policeman to a field next to the railway station, he pointed to Mrs. Legg’s body sprawled on the ground and said, “I cut her throat with a razor.”
At his trial at Wiltshire Assizes his insanity plea was rejected by both the prosecution and the jury. But what was his motive? The Crown suggested that Mrs. Legg’s death was a revenge murder committed because she had infected Bignell with a venereal disease seven years earlier.
The court was told that he had first met and lived with Mrs. Legg in 1917 while he was on leave from the army. He had been unemployed since his discharge from the forces, and he was living in a workhouse when Mrs. Legg met him again and asked him to come and live with her as her lodger. She would run away with him, she said, if her husband objected.
Summing-up, Mr. Justice Roche said that Bignell’s long history of venereal disease might have weakened his intelligence and his will, which had never been strong, but there was no medical evidence that he was insane.
Found guilty, he was executed at Shepton Mallet Prison on February 24th, 1925.